The title of this sermon is “From Groaning to Glory.”
In our study of Romans thus far, we have been describing the realm of the flesh. And this realm is filled with fleshly desires because those in this realm are enslaved to the law of sin, they are enemies of God, and therefore, no matter how hard they try to please God, they only bear the fruit of death. But by Christ’s death and resurrection, Paul confesses in Romans 7:25, thanks be to God for saving me in Christ. That’s the turning point. Because through Christ, we are delivered into the realm of the Spirit and salvation and life and fruit.
Then, we reach Romans 8. Romans 8 is one of the most beloved chapters of the entire Bible. It is a chapter that talks about the essence of Spirit-filled Christian living and the role of suffering in a believer’s life.
The Bible says as believers, we will suffer for Christ. What is the end result of our suffering? Glory. This is an important principle in the Christian life.
17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. ~Rom 8:17-18
Suffering then glory — these two always go hand in hand. Suffering precedes glory.
Cooking a turkey is suffering. Why is it suffering? Because you can’t just pop a turkey into an oven and out comes a delicious, juicy golden brown turkey. Without the proper amount of suffering and preparation, a turkey doesn’t taste good by itself.
You have to plan in advance and allow a turkey to thaw for 5 days. Then, you boil a brine solution, then it has to cool down. From there, you have to submerge the turkey for 24-48 hours. Then you pat dry it for an hour in order to get a crispy skin. Then, while cooking the turkey, you baste the turkey and if you have a really old oven, the heat inside the oven is uneven so there were years that I had to rotate the turkey 90 degrees every 15 minutes to make sure it browns evenly. Also, in order to battle the heat, you have to foil the top of the turkey so that it doesn’t brown too fast and you have to time it and remove the foil at just the right time. Not to mention, you have to fill the cavity with fruits and vegetables to keep the turkey moist. Then, if you really want to have a good turkey, you have to create a glaze.
This is not cooking, this is suffering. But when that moist, golden brown, perfectly seasoned turkey is displayed and you win first prize, that’s glory. Suffering then glory.
We had to cook 2 turkeys this past Thursday on Thanksgiving Day and one of them, Jackie used a pre-brined turkey from Ralph and all she had to do was pop it in the oven. No suffering needed. And the turkey tasted decent, but it was not glorious.
We see this pattern of suffering before glory being lived out in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to suffer, to die on a cross, and to be raised in glory at the resurrection. And as disciples of Christ, we follow this same pattern.
Suffering leads to glory.
My favorite movie of all time is Glory, 1989. The movie is based on the letters of Colonel Robert G. Shaw. Shaw was an officer in the Federal Army during the American Civil War who volunteered to lead the first company of black soldiers, the 54th Regiment of the North. Shaw was forced to deal with the prejudices of both the enemy in the South (who had orders to kill commanding officers of blacks), and of his own fellow officers.
We are going to watch a clip from the movie. This scene is near the end of the movie when the Colonel is preparing his men for their attack on Fort Wagner, a battle in which they expect heavy casualities.
If I had a rededication time at the end of that video clip, I know that some of us brothers in this congregation would be coming forward to rededicate their lives. Because dying for a cause like the end of slavery and racism and prejudice with your band of brothers is glorious.
Dying a blaze of glory is one thing, but signing up for a lifetime of suffering is quite another. This passage is not talking about impulsive glory, like jumping in front of a car to save a child in a moment of heroism. The biblical definition of glory is something else quite different. Glory is tied with suffering — you can’t enter glory until you have walked the road of suffering.
We don’t like to suffer. I hate suffering. Because I act tough but inside I am sensitive. That’s a euphemism for wimpy.
In college, my friends and I were the type to see a video like Glory and say, sign me up, Jesus. I’m ready to die. So one Friday, 3 of us heard a Bible study about the Nazarite vow from Numbers 6. These Nazarites were supposed to set themselves apart for the Lord and as part of their cleansing, they would shave their heads. And we heard this Bible study and decided to apply this truth literally and shave our heads.
I don’t know why we did this, but we were passionate and zealous and we were not afraid to do crazy things. So I got the clipper in my hands and I went straight down the middle of one of my friends scalp. That’s cruel. You go straight down the middle and there is no turning back. It’s not like the side or the back, where you could fade it if you decided you didn’t like it and changed your mind. But straight down the middle. Reverse mohawk. So of course, I finished shaving him. And what we realized is that this brother has a disproportionately small head. And we used to joke that he would make a great missionary because he was Korean, but he didn’t look Korean. He looked Pakistani and we said he had a 1040 window face because he could pass as a citizen of any of those Muslim countries.
And when I was done shaving his head, I looked at him, small head, round glasses, he was kind of thin, so he looked like Gandhi. And after one look at him, I said, sorry, bro, you’re on your own. And I didn’t shave my head. I wimped out.
You know some people are super tough and they just walk into a freezing pool and they don’t even flinch. I go into a pool and I can’t take the cold. I grew up on the East Coast but Southern California weather has made me soft. I go into a pool and my body goes into shock so I have to gradually submerge myself very slowly, at the pace of one inch per minute. That’s wimpy.
When I see insects, I don’t kill them. I ask Timothy to kill them. That’s wimpy.
I am wimpy when it comes to sickness. If I mention to Jackie that my throat is getting itchy, she doesn’t say, oh, why don’t you take some vitamin C or rest. No, her first reaction is fear. She is afraid that I will get sick because this means she will have a fourth boy on her hands to take care of. She knows I am wimpy.
I know I am a wimp when it comes to waking up in the morning. I can stay up late and hang out or prepare for a sermon until 3am every night if I had to. But if the boys wake up in the middle of the night, I’m out. Every night’s sleep is like a mini-death. The house could be burning down but I ain’t waking up. I’m like a bear in hibernation. So who wakes up? Jackie, bless her soul, is a light sleeper. She could wake me up to get the kids, but that takes more energy so she wakes up. She’s tougher than me. I’m wimpy.
We live in a society of wimps.
You go to the gym and you no longer have to work hard to break a sweat. Now, you just have to sit down in a room filled with steam and what normally takes an hour of running uphill, now you can give yourself the illusion of exercise. You just sit in a room and let the steam do all the work for you. No effort needed and it only takes a few minutes and you are drenched in sweat. That much, we don’t want to suffer.
It is no secret that our world does not like to suffer. When suffering hits, we brush it under the rug. We don’t like to dwell on negative things like suffering. The advice of the world when suffering and tragedy hits is to move on, look on the bright side, life goes on.
But for the Christian, we look squarely at suffering and the Spirit of God that lives inside of us embraces this suffering. Because the road of suffering sanctifies us and transforms us, and prepares us for glory.
Three Types of Groaning
How is our suffering expressed? Groaning. The word groaning or groans appears in Romans 8 three times. There are three distinct kinds of groaning.
First, in v21-22, you have the groaning of creation. This groaning, which also applies to humanity, is one born out of frustration because of sin and the law of decay.
Second, in v23, believers have the groaning that is best described as longing for full redemption and full adoption as sons and daughters of God.
Third, in v26, there is the groaning of the Spirit. This groaning is intercession as the Spirit intercedes on behalf of believers in accordance with the will of God.